MIT develops incredible system to ‘shrink’ objects

Researchers at MIT have developed a system to “shrink” objects down to a nanoscale level. While this may conjure up images of “Ant-Man” or “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids,” it’s actually a 3-D printing technique that could prove useful in fields such as medicine, robotics and optics. "It's a way of putting nearly any kind … Continue reading “MIT develops incredible system to ‘shrink’ objects”

Researchers at MIT have developed a system to “shrink” objects down to a nanoscale level.

While this may conjure up images of “Ant-Man” or “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids,” it’s actually a 3-D printing technique that could prove useful in fields such as medicine, robotics and optics.

"It's a way of putting nearly any kind of material into a 3-D pattern with nanoscale precision," said Edward Boyden, an associate professor of biological engineering and of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, in a statement.

DRONE FLEET COULD HELP FIND LOST HIKERS, MIT RESEARCHERS SAY

The researchers used a technique they describe as “implosion fabrication” to 3-D print objects at a nanoscale. Their work builds on an existing technique developed at Boyden’s lab for high-resolution imaging of brain tissue.

This image shows a complex structure prior to shrinking. (Daniel Oran)

“This technique, known as expansion microscopy, involves embedding tissue into a hydrogel and then expanding it, allowing for high-resolution imaging with a regular microscope,” explained MIT in the statement. “By reversing this process, the researchers found that they could create large-scale objects embedded in expanded hydrogels and then shrink them to the nanoscale.”

Similar to their research on expansion microscopy, the researchers used a highly absorbent material made of polyacrylate, which is commonly found in diapers, as the “scaffold” for their nanofabrication process. This was bathed in a solution that contained molecules of fluorescein, a compound widely used as a coloring agent. When activated by a laser light, the molecules attached to the “scaffold.”

SPRAWLING GALAXY CLUSTER DISCOVERED 'HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT'

Using two-photon-microscopy, the fluorescein molecules were attached to specific locations within the gel. "You attach the anchors where you want with light, and later you can attach whatever you want to the anchors," said Boyden. "It could be a quantum dot, it could be a piece of DNA, it could be a gold nanoparticle."

A paper on the research was published in the journal Science.

"It's a bit like film photography — a latent image is formed by exposing a sensitive material in a gel to light," said Daniel Oran, an MIT graduate student, and one of the paper's lead authors, in a statement. "Then, you can develop that latent image into a real image by attaching another material, silver, afterwards. In this way implosion fabrication can create all sorts of structures, including gradients, unconnected structures, and multimaterial patterns,"

MIT RESEARCHERS GIVE THE WHITE CANE USED BY THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED A HIGH-TECH UPDATE

Scientists say they can then shrink objects 10-fold in each dimension, making an overall 1,000-fold reduction in volume.

“Once the desired molecules are attached in the right locations, the researchers shrink the entire structure by adding an acid,” explained MIT in its statement.

Using the technique, researchers say that they can create objects that are around 1 cubic millimeter, patterned with a resolution of 50 nanometers. “There is a tradeoff between size and resolution: If the researchers want to make larger objects, about 1 cubic centimeter, they can achieve a resolution of about 500 nanometers,” they explained. However, improvements to the process could eventually boost resolution.

ULTRALIGHT 'SUPER-MATERIAL' IS 10 TIMES STRONGER THAN STEEL

The system could be particularly useful for creating specialized lenses for the likes of cell phones, microscopes and endoscopes, according to the scientists involved in the project.

"There are all kinds of things you can do with this," explained Boyden, noting that the technology needed is already in many research labs. "With a laser you can already find in many biology labs, you can scan a pattern, then deposit metals, semiconductors, or DNA, and then shrink it down," he added.

The system is just the latest innovation to come out of MIT. In a separate MIT project, researchers have been developing sophisticated technology that uses drones to find lost hikers by searching under dense forest canopies.

In August, scientists at MIT announced the discovery of a galaxy cluster that they say is “hiding in plain sight.”

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Drone fleet could help find lost hikers, MIT researchers say

Researchers at MIT say that a sophisticated fleet of drones could help find lost hikers by searching under dense forest canopies.

The autonomous drones would bypass the problem of unreliable or nonexistent GPS signals in forest environments by using onboard computation and wireless communication, according to the experts.

The team’s research is revealed in a paper that will be presented at the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this week.

DRONE SAVES AUSTRALIAN TEEN SWIMMERS IN WORLD'S 1ST RESCUE MISSION WITH UNMANNED AIRCRAFT

Using laser range-finders to estimate their position and plan a route, the drones will create 3-D maps of the terrain. Algorithms will be employed to help the drones identify unexplored areas and places that it has already searched.

Eventually, researchers want to give the drones object detection technology to help identify missing hikers. This would tag the hiker’s location on a map that can be used by human rescuers.

“Essentially, we’re replacing humans with a fleet of drones to make the search part of the search-and-rescue process more efficient,” said the paper’s lead author Yulun Tian, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro).

'LOST CITY' REVEALED IN SOUTH AFRICA USING LASER TECHNOLOGY

The MIT experts tested a number of drones in forest simulations, and also tested two drones in a forested area at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. “In both experiments, each drone mapped a roughly 20-square-meter area in about two to five minutes and collaboratively fused their maps together in real-time,” they said, in a statement. “The drones also performed well across several metrics, including overall speed and time to complete the mission, detection of forest features, and accurate merging of maps.”

A LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system was mounted on the drones to create a 2-D scan of surrounding obstacles. LiDAR uses a laser to measure distances to the Earth’s surface and can prove extremely valuable to study areas with thick vegetation. The technology, for example, has been used to locate a number of archaeological sites.

Archaeologists, for example, have harnessed the technology to reveal lost cities and thousands of ancient structures deep in the Guatemalan jungle.

MYSTERIOUS LOST MAYA CITIES DISCOVERED IN GUATEMALAN JUNGLE

LiDAR is also used extensively in other applications, including autonomous cars, where it allows vehicles to have a continuous 360 degrees view.

The MIT team programmed the drones to identify the orientations of multiple trees – an algorithm was used to calculate the angles and distances between trees to pinpoint specific clusters. “Drones can use that as a unique signature to tell if they’ve visited this area before or if it’s a new area,” said Tian.

The drones communicate with a ground station that uses specialized navigation software to map unknown areas and keep track of the flying robots. The Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) software uses the LiDAR data to capture the drones’ positions and accurately fuse the digital maps they create.

AERIAL LASER DISCOVERS ANCIENT ROMAN GOLD MINES

However, researchers would like to reduce the drones’ reliance on the ground station. The team hopes to design the drones to communicate wirelessly when approaching one another, fusing their maps, and cutting communication when they separate. “The ground station, in that case, would only be used to monitor the updated global map,” they explain, in the statement.

Rescue services are increasingly harnessing drone technology. Earlier this year, lifeguards in Australia used a drone to help save two teenage boys caught in dangerous waves in what was described as the world’s first rescue by unmanned aircraft.

Fox News’ Katherine Lam contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Fox on Tech: Using lasers to find aliens

Calling all aliens! The search for extraterrestrial life is alive and well, and this week, two scientists from MIT breathed new life into the effort with an out-of-this-world idea for contacting non-earthlings.

The plan is simple: create a laser that has the ability to let distant planets, some tens of thousands of light years away, know that we exist. The two researchers have published a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal, theorizing that we could build the laser, then combine it with a massive telescope, to make a detectable beacon for interstellar travelers.

DRONE FLEET COULD HELP FIND LOST HIKERS, MIT RESEARCHERS SAY

The good news is that the technology needed is less science fiction and more science fact. The laser would need to be between 1 to 2 megawatts, a huge amount of energy and a potential hurdle to completion. But this technology isn't new to the military. The Air Force developed a megawatt-level laser for a now-defunct missile defense project, but the design team could easily be re-assembled and re-tasked to the beacon project. "This would be a challenging project but not an impossible one," according to James Clark, an MIT grad student and the paper's lead author. "The kinds of lasers and telescopes that are being built today can produce a detectable signal, so that an astronomer could take one look at our star and immediately see something unusual about its spectrum."

As for the telescope – it would need to be between 30 and 45 meters in diameter – and there are several already in operation or in the planning phase that fit the bill. In fact, three different telescopes in that size range are under construction right now, and scheduled to come online in the early to mid-2020s – including the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) being built on the Hawaiian peak Mauna Kea.

ARE YOU READY FOR A CHIP IMPLANT?

It could potentially be aimed a couple of close neighbors: the newly-discovered Trappist 1 Star system, which is about 40 million light years away, is a good bet to contain some sort of life. Or if we wanted to look closer, Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbor, is just 4 light years away. At those distances, the quick flash would be seen just a few years after it was sent, potentially opening up lines of communication should there be an intelligent civilization to receive it.  In theory, the beacon would beam infrared radiation, which is long-wavelength light that's invisible to the human eye. The resulting signal could be powerful and distinct enough that it would not be drowned out by the sun's heat signature.

Of course, some scientists do question if we should be in the business of alerting intelligent aliens to our presence – and invite a possible invasion if the interstellar travelers we contact turn out to be more "Independence Day" than "ET"!

Drone fleet could help find lost hikers, MIT researchers say

Researchers at MIT say that a sophisticated fleet of drones could help find lost hikers by searching under dense forest canopies.

The autonomous drones would bypass the problem of unreliable or nonexistent GPS signals in forest environments by using onboard computation and wireless communication, according to the experts.

The team’s research is revealed in a paper that will be presented at the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this week.

DRONE SAVES AUSTRALIAN TEEN SWIMMERS IN WORLD'S 1ST RESCUE MISSION WITH UNMANNED AIRCRAFT

Using laser range-finders to estimate their position and plan a route, the drones will create 3-D maps of the terrain. Algorithms will be employed to help the drones identify unexplored areas and places that it has already searched.

Eventually, researchers want to give the drones object detection technology to help identify missing hikers. This would tag the hiker’s location on a map that can be used by human rescuers.

“Essentially, we’re replacing humans with a fleet of drones to make the search part of the search-and-rescue process more efficient,” said the paper’s lead author Yulun Tian, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro).

'LOST CITY' REVEALED IN SOUTH AFRICA USING LASER TECHNOLOGY

The MIT experts tested a number of drones in forest simulations, and also tested two drones in a forested area at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. “In both experiments, each drone mapped a roughly 20-square-meter area in about two to five minutes and collaboratively fused their maps together in real-time,” they said, in a statement. “The drones also performed well across several metrics, including overall speed and time to complete the mission, detection of forest features, and accurate merging of maps.”

A LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system was mounted on the drones to create a 2-D scan of surrounding obstacles. LiDAR uses a laser to measure distances to the Earth’s surface and can prove extremely valuable to study areas with thick vegetation. The technology, for example, has been used to locate a number of archaeological sites.

Archaeologists, for example, have harnessed the technology to reveal lost cities and thousands of ancient structures deep in the Guatemalan jungle.

MYSTERIOUS LOST MAYA CITIES DISCOVERED IN GUATEMALAN JUNGLE

LiDAR is also used extensively in other applications, including autonomous cars, where it allows vehicles to have a continuous 360 degrees view.

The MIT team programmed the drones to identify the orientations of multiple trees – an algorithm was used to calculate the angles and distances between trees to pinpoint specific clusters. “Drones can use that as a unique signature to tell if they’ve visited this area before or if it’s a new area,” said Tian.

The drones communicate with a ground station that uses specialized navigation software to map unknown areas and keep track of the flying robots. The Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) software uses the LiDAR data to capture the drones’ positions and accurately fuse the digital maps they create.

AERIAL LASER DISCOVERS ANCIENT ROMAN GOLD MINES

However, researchers would like to reduce the drones’ reliance on the ground station. The team hopes to design the drones to communicate wirelessly when approaching one another, fusing their maps, and cutting communication when they separate. “The ground station, in that case, would only be used to monitor the updated global map,” they explain, in the statement.

Rescue services are increasingly harnessing drone technology. Earlier this year, lifeguards in Australia used a drone to help save two teenage boys caught in dangerous waves in what was described as the world’s first rescue by unmanned aircraft.

Fox News’ Katherine Lam contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Fox on Tech: Using lasers to find aliens

Calling all aliens! The search for extraterrestrial life is alive and well, and this week, two scientists from MIT breathed new life into the effort with an out-of-this-world idea for contacting non-earthlings.

The plan is simple: create a laser that has the ability to let distant planets, some tens of thousands of light years away, know that we exist. The two researchers have published a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal, theorizing that we could build the laser, then combine it with a massive telescope, to make a detectable beacon for interstellar travelers.

DRONE FLEET COULD HELP FIND LOST HIKERS, MIT RESEARCHERS SAY

The good news is that the technology needed is less science fiction and more science fact. The laser would need to be between 1 to 2 megawatts, a huge amount of energy and a potential hurdle to completion. But this technology isn't new to the military. The Air Force developed a megawatt-level laser for a now-defunct missile defense project, but the design team could easily be re-assembled and re-tasked to the beacon project. "This would be a challenging project but not an impossible one," according to James Clark, an MIT grad student and the paper's lead author. "The kinds of lasers and telescopes that are being built today can produce a detectable signal, so that an astronomer could take one look at our star and immediately see something unusual about its spectrum."

As for the telescope – it would need to be between 30 and 45 meters in diameter – and there are several already in operation or in the planning phase that fit the bill. In fact, three different telescopes in that size range are under construction right now, and scheduled to come online in the early to mid-2020s – including the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) being built on the Hawaiian peak Mauna Kea.

ARE YOU READY FOR A CHIP IMPLANT?

It could potentially be aimed a couple of close neighbors: the newly-discovered Trappist 1 Star system, which is about 40 million light years away, is a good bet to contain some sort of life. Or if we wanted to look closer, Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbor, is just 4 light years away. At those distances, the quick flash would be seen just a few years after it was sent, potentially opening up lines of communication should there be an intelligent civilization to receive it.  In theory, the beacon would beam infrared radiation, which is long-wavelength light that's invisible to the human eye. The resulting signal could be powerful and distinct enough that it would not be drowned out by the sun's heat signature.

Of course, some scientists do question if we should be in the business of alerting intelligent aliens to our presence – and invite a possible invasion if the interstellar travelers we contact turn out to be more "Independence Day" than "ET"!

Fox on Tech: Using lasers to find aliens

Calling all aliens! The search for extraterrestrial life is alive and well, and this week, two scientists from MIT breathed new life into the effort with an out-of-this-world idea for contacting non-earthlings.

The plan is simple: create a laser that has the ability to let distant planets, some tens of thousands of light years away, know that we exist. The two researchers have published a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal, theorizing that we could build the laser, then combine it with a massive telescope, to make a detectable beacon for interstellar travelers.

DRONE FLEET COULD HELP FIND LOST HIKERS, MIT RESEARCHERS SAY

The good news is that the technology needed is less science fiction and more science fact. The laser would need to be between 1 to 2 megawatts, a huge amount of energy and a potential hurdle to completion. But this technology isn't new to the military. The Air Force developed a megawatt-level laser for a now-defunct missile defense project, but the design team could easily be re-assembled and re-tasked to the beacon project. "This would be a challenging project but not an impossible one," according to James Clark, an MIT grad student and the paper's lead author. "The kinds of lasers and telescopes that are being built today can produce a detectable signal, so that an astronomer could take one look at our star and immediately see something unusual about its spectrum."

As for the telescope – it would need to be between 30 and 45 meters in diameter – and there are several already in operation or in the planning phase that fit the bill. In fact, three different telescopes in that size range are under construction right now, and scheduled to come online in the early to mid-2020s – including the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) being built on the Hawaiian peak Mauna Kea.

ARE YOU READY FOR A CHIP IMPLANT?

It could potentially be aimed a couple of close neighbors: the newly-discovered Trappist 1 Star system, which is about 40 million light years away, is a good bet to contain some sort of life. Or if we wanted to look closer, Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbor, is just 4 light years away. At those distances, the quick flash would be seen just a few years after it was sent, potentially opening up lines of communication should there be an intelligent civilization to receive it.  In theory, the beacon would beam infrared radiation, which is long-wavelength light that's invisible to the human eye. The resulting signal could be powerful and distinct enough that it would not be drowned out by the sun's heat signature.

Of course, some scientists do question if we should be in the business of alerting intelligent aliens to our presence – and invite a possible invasion if the interstellar travelers we contact turn out to be more "Independence Day" than "ET"!

Drone fleet could help find lost hikers, MIT researchers say

Researchers at MIT say that a sophisticated fleet of drones could help find lost hikers by searching under dense forest canopies.

The autonomous drones would bypass the problem of unreliable or nonexistent GPS signals in forest environments by using onboard computation and wireless communication, according to the experts.

The team’s research is revealed in a paper that will be presented at the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this week.

DRONE SAVES AUSTRALIAN TEEN SWIMMERS IN WORLD'S 1ST RESCUE MISSION WITH UNMANNED AIRCRAFT

Using laser range-finders to estimate their position and plan a route, the drones will create 3-D maps of the terrain. Algorithms will be employed to help the drones identify unexplored areas and places that it has already searched.

Eventually, researchers want to give the drones object detection technology to help identify missing hikers. This would tag the hiker’s location on a map that can be used by human rescuers.

“Essentially, we’re replacing humans with a fleet of drones to make the search part of the search-and-rescue process more efficient,” said the paper’s lead author Yulun Tian, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro).

'LOST CITY' REVEALED IN SOUTH AFRICA USING LASER TECHNOLOGY

The MIT experts tested a number of drones in forest simulations, and also tested two drones in a forested area at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. “In both experiments, each drone mapped a roughly 20-square-meter area in about two to five minutes and collaboratively fused their maps together in real-time,” they said, in a statement. “The drones also performed well across several metrics, including overall speed and time to complete the mission, detection of forest features, and accurate merging of maps.”

A LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system was mounted on the drones to create a 2-D scan of surrounding obstacles. LiDAR uses a laser to measure distances to the Earth’s surface and can prove extremely valuable to study areas with thick vegetation. The technology, for example, has been used to locate a number of archaeological sites.

Archaeologists, for example, have harnessed the technology to reveal lost cities and thousands of ancient structures deep in the Guatemalan jungle.

MYSTERIOUS LOST MAYA CITIES DISCOVERED IN GUATEMALAN JUNGLE

LiDAR is also used extensively in other applications, including autonomous cars, where it allows vehicles to have a continuous 360 degrees view.

The MIT team programmed the drones to identify the orientations of multiple trees – an algorithm was used to calculate the angles and distances between trees to pinpoint specific clusters. “Drones can use that as a unique signature to tell if they’ve visited this area before or if it’s a new area,” said Tian.

The drones communicate with a ground station that uses specialized navigation software to map unknown areas and keep track of the flying robots. The Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) software uses the LiDAR data to capture the drones’ positions and accurately fuse the digital maps they create.

AERIAL LASER DISCOVERS ANCIENT ROMAN GOLD MINES

However, researchers would like to reduce the drones’ reliance on the ground station. The team hopes to design the drones to communicate wirelessly when approaching one another, fusing their maps, and cutting communication when they separate. “The ground station, in that case, would only be used to monitor the updated global map,” they explain, in the statement.

Rescue services are increasingly harnessing drone technology. Earlier this year, lifeguards in Australia used a drone to help save two teenage boys caught in dangerous waves in what was described as the world’s first rescue by unmanned aircraft.

Fox News’ Katherine Lam contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers